Belfast Telegraph

Bombardier nears take-off on new £2bn aircraft deal

By Clare Weir

Things may be taking off again for Belfast planemaker Bombardier after the firm signed a deal for new aircraft which could be worth over £2bn with an Irish-based leasing company.

The French-Canadian company announced this month it was planning to cut up to 390 jobs from its Belfast base, with about 300 temporary and contract staff and 90 permanent workers likely to go.

But yesterday Bombardier revealed that jet hire company Macquarie AirFinance is to buy 40 CS300 planes in a deal worth $3.14bn (£1.9bn), which could increase to $3.95bn (£2.4bn), should an option for a further 10 planes be converted to firm orders.

It now has just over 560 orders for its CSeries aircraft, of which 243 are firm orders.

Macquarie AirFinance, which currently owns or manages 136 jet aircraft leased to 73 operators in 43 countries across six continents, will lease the CS300 aircraft to airline operators around the world.

The firm's headquarters are in Dublin and loans planes to major carriers including British Airways, Qantas, Air France and Etihad. It is a subsidiary of Australian finance giant Macquarie.

Mike Arcamone, president, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, said: "Macquarie AirFinance's selection of the CS300 aircraft is a strong endorsement of the aircraft type and we are looking forward to working with this unique lessor to expand the market for our new jetliner."

Harry Forsythe, its executive vice president and head of marketing, started his career with Shorts Brothers (now Bombardier) in Belfast and is an engineering graduate of what is now the University of Ulster at Jordanstown.

Meanwhile, Bombardier in Belfast said it is in talks with permanent employees about voluntary redundancies and is in ongoing discussions with the employers of temporary and contract staff as the global company carries out a major restructuring.

It has around 5,000 permanent staff and 1,000 contract and temporary workers in Belfast.

In May the firm faced a headache with an engine fire on the first flight test vehicle of the new CSeries plane, the carbon fibre wings of which are built in a special facility in Belfast.

The blaze, which damaged the wing of the CS100 aircraft, meant that the four flight test vehicles were grounded for investigations until this month.

Despite the engine issue, the French-Canadian firm has said that the CS100 aircraft is on target to enter service in the second half of 2015, while the CS300 is expected to follow approximately six months later.

A spokeswoman for Bombardier said that following the engine failure in May, the second CSeries flight test vehicle resumed flight testing on September 7.

"Following a successful 'to service, maintenance flight' – fully meeting our expectations – Flight Test Vehicle 2 has flown regularly, almost daily, and is meeting expectations," she said.

"Flight Test Vehicle 4 returned to the flight test programme on September 15 and we're pleased to see the programme successfully moving ahead.

"During the pause of the flight test programme, our engineering teams completed additional ground tests, configuration and software upgrades, training for entry-into-service, telemetry and system analysis based on data collected so far, and a number of other activities."

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